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©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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THE SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH

Considering that these monthly columns are about domestic violence, which is most  often defined as men beating women, my column last month about spanking may have seemed an odd way to begin. In my book, I write, "Domestic violence is most often presented on the one hand as an epidemic that views men as wild beasts, who are only loosely tethered by the constraints of civilization and who are aggressive, combative demonic primates who enjoy nothing better than battering, beating, and murdering women and children. On the other hand, some do not view domestic violence as an issue at all. For the latter group domestic violence it is nothing more than a specious issue constructed and fabricated in the minds of feminists and it is not a problem in America's enlightened modern society." I believe the truth will be discovered somewhere in the middle of these two contrasting beliefs.

In the Encyclopedia or Psychology published by the American Psychological Association and the Oxford University Press, I use the following definition for domestic violence based on laws in all fifty states:

Domestic violence, by legislation and statute law, is generally defined as an
intentional abuse or physical assault committed by a past or present spouse,
intimate partner or family or household member against another spouse or intimate partner or family or household member regardless of age or gender.

Most of the research to date, relative to domestic violence, concerns itself primarily with men's violence against women. It is time for researchers, feminists, and victims' advocacy groups to broaden their examination of the issue to include child abuse, sibling abuse, spousal abuse, intimate partner abuse, and elder abuse.  Contemporary domestic violence intervention begins with the criminal justice system because the above three groups believe the government has been reluctant to intervene in men's violence against women. However, history reveals, when not viewed with a gendered blind eye, that the problem is much more complex. Those who have power, regardless of gender, are reluctant to relinquish the power and control they have over others, regardless of gender. History, of course, demonstrates that those with power and control have most always been men. However, has it always been men only who use violence to hold on to power simply and only because they are men. Or is it possible that human beings who have power and control, regardless of gender, are often reluctant to surrender it to others?

Spanking demonstrates that human beings, regardless of gender, use physical force to change or alter the behaviors of others. It also demonstrates that our court system, representative of our government, continues to condone such behavior. 

Further, are we not putting blinders on the search for proper understanding of the violent behavior of men against women when we limit ourselves in the search for men's violent behavior by searching for only half an answer? Ask half a question, [Why are men violent against women?] and get half an answer. It is my belief that it is not all men in general who are violent against women, it is some men in particular who are much more violent than others, that cause the majority of violent abuse.  Studies demonstrate, that approximately 70 percent of all violent crime in American is committed by 6 percent of violent criminals. It is these chronic offenders that the criminal justice system should concentrate on first. Many domestic violence studies indicate that three out of every four abusers have a history of criminal behavior and more than half a history of violent criminal behavior. Logic also demands that the criminal justice system, used specifically on chronic domestic violence abusers, could dramatically reduce large numbers of women who are being violently abused. This is particularly true for women at the lower end of the soci/economic/educational latter who have little resources to break the cycle of violence the often find themselves in.

There should be little debate that men are much more violent than women. The Bureau of Justice Statistics report May 2000, Intimate Partner Violence indicates that men are the perpetrators 22 percent of the time between 1993 and 1998. In contrast women were the perpetrators only 3 percent of the time. In American, a man murders someone every half-hour. Roughly 1 in every 15,000 Americans is murdered every year. In Homicide Trends in the United States: 1998 Update, from the Bureau of Justice Statistics [www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/homtrnd.htm] it reports that males are most often the victims and the perpetrators in homicides. Men are more than 9 times more likely than women to commit murder.

Reams of data also demonstrate that it is men who are the major offenders concerning domestic violence. As a society we should be beyond disputing that to be a fact. For those who do want to continue the disputation that the violence between intimates is a 50/50 proposition, rather than wasting our time in this monthly column, I suggest you visit [http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/NACJD/archieve.html.] Or you may find it just as easy to order Violence by Intimates 1998 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Factbook

There is little empirical scientific data to deny that overwhelmingly, it is men who inflict the majority of violent abuse in our homes on women. However, there are reams of data that demonstrate that often when the victim is weaker than the perpetrator, abuse can and does occur regardless of age or gender. The editors in the executive summary of In Violence in Families: Assessing Prevention and Treatment Programs, report that "running through discussions of child maltreatment, domestic violence, and elder abuse is the idea of unequal power in the relationship between the abuser and the victim." Data demonstrates that parents, caretakers, and siblings, regardless of gender, engage in occasional or chronic battering of young children.

There are many forces that continue to allow violence to occur in our homes that have not been fully explored. There is no single cause or solitary factor that contributes to or creates domestic violence. Next month we will explore that the dynamics that create domestic violence are not always confined to the home.

EDITORíS NOTE:
Richard L. Davis, the author of "Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies", Praeger Publishers, Westport CT (1998), retired after 21 years of service with the Brockton, Massachusetts Police Department, he is a Domestic Violence Intervention and Programs consultant.
rldavis@post.harvard.edu

Copyright © 2000 Richard L. Davis

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